Groupon, an online coupon company, was one of many companies that considered an initial public offering (IPO) during what might be a second technology/internet/social media IPO boom in 2011. Some companies chose to postpone their IPOs, while others took advantage of the media attention focussed on technology companies, and in particular, social media firms. Should investors hop on the tech IPO bandwagon, or hold off to better evaluate the long-term prospects of tech companies, and in particular social media companies? Would the valuation of Groupon justify an investment in IPO shares?
The case was researched from secondary sources, using Groupon's IPO filing information, news articles about the IPO and industry research sources, such as IBIS World.
Relevant courses and levels
This case is appropriate for an advanced undergraduate or MBA corporate finance or investment elective. Most introductory finance classes do not have the time to cover later chapters in a finance textbook, where information about IPOs is generally found. It could also be used at the end of a core finance course, where the instructor wanted to introduce this topic through a case study of a hard-to-value internet-based company to illustrate the difficulties in setting IPO prices. The case could also be used in an equity analysis class, an entrepreneurial finance class or an investment class, to spur discussion about valuing an internet company and choosing appropriate investments for pension fund investing. This case could also be used in a strategy class, focussing on the five forces question, and eliminating the valuation question.
There is a great deal of literature about IPOs and their long-term performance. An excellent source is Jay R. Ritter's research, http://bear.warrington.ufl.edu/ritter, which has a longer time period and more data than could be contained in this case. IPO puzzles include persistent undervaluing of IPOs; in other words, the offer price is lower than, and sometimes substantially lower than, the first day close price. A second issue is the generally poorer long-run performance of companies after their IPO when compared to similar firms that did not do an IPO.
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